In the middle of this past week, a friend of mine on Facebook – also a fellow member of our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship – noted that she’d had to explain the concept of a punchbowl to her elementary-age students. And she wondered when was the last time her friends on FB had seen or used a punchbowl.
Well, noted another fellowship member, we use one every year at our annual dinner. Others mentioned graduation celebrations, formal dances and the other types of get-togethers one might expect.
I added that we’d used a punchbowl at the celebration of my mom’s 90th birthday almost five years ago, and I noted that the punch we’d served that day was made from the same recipe (and very possibly, now that I think about it, served from the same punchbowl) that was used for the punch at my sister’s wedding reception in 1972. The recipe, I told FB readers, was one my mom found in a magazine.
But as Wednesday faded and Thursday arrived, I wondered if that was the source of the recipe, which calls for pineapple juice, frozen orange juice and ginger ale. Certainly Mom could have found the recipe in a magazine in 1972. She subscribed to several publications that could have offered it: Better Homes & Gardens, McCall’s and Redbook come to mind. The recipe’s genesis wasn’t all that important, but I wondered.
We went to lunch Thursday, Mom and I, at, of course, the Ace Bar & Grill. She told me about a lovely funeral that took place earlier in the week for the woman who’d been the oldest resident in the assisted living center, and she asked how the Texas Gal and I were feeling, as she knew we’d been struggling through a couple ailments each. We were getting better, I told her, turning around in my mind the thought that funerals and ailments will likely be more and more frequent conversation topics as the years go on.
Then I asked her about the punch, and she remembered it clearly. “So good!” she said (and she was right about that). And I asked if she’d found the recipe in a magazine. No, she hadn’t. She’d gotten the recipe from her mother, my grandmother, and it had been served in 1965 at the celebration of my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary at their farmhouse just outside Lamberton, Minnesota. That meant, I realized, that I had dipped and served some of that punch, as my cousin Debbie and I – we were both eleven – were on punch bowl duty for at least a part of that gathering at my grandparents’ home.
And, Mom went on, that punch had been served at the reception when she and my dad were married in July 1948; that celebration also took place at the Lamberton farm. So where had Grandma gotten the recipe? Well, Mom said, she’d gotten it from her sister Hilda. And Hilda, Mom said slowly, thinking, had gotten it from her roommate at nursing school.
The memories began to spool out, as they always do when Mom gets to talking about things that happened sixty or more years ago: Hilda was living in St. Paul, and the nursing school was at the long-gone Miller Hospital (and was a program of the University of Minnesota, according to the page about the hospital at Placeography).
Hilda’s roommate was a nursing student, too, Mom said, visibly sifting the memories as our lunch was served – eggs and hash browns for her; a German burger (a hamburger with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and bacon) and tater tots for me. Hilda’s roommate, Mom said, was Sophie, Sophie . . . Kashinsky. Sophie came from Hutchinson, Minnesota, a town about sixty miles straight west of the Twin Cities, with a population back then of not quite 5,000 people.
Where did Sophie get the recipe? Mom didn’t know. She’d met Sophie a number of times, the last occasion being a potluck picnic at the Hutchinson home of the recently married Sophie during the summer of 1950. Mom recalled the year of the picnic because she was pregnant with my sister at the time, and she also recalled that she brought baked beans to the picnic. I have no doubt that if I’d asked her what color the table cloth was, she’d have remembered.
But there was no answer to the question: Where did Sophie get the punch recipe? I didn’t say this at lunch, but it’s reasonable to assume, I think, that Sophie got the recipe from her mother, and I’d like to think that it was served at a reception for Sophie’s graduation from Hutchinson High School sometime during the 1930s, or maybe even at the reception when Sophie’s own parents were married, most likely in the early 1900s.
What I do know is that if one Googles “punch pineapple juice ginger ale,” the second recipe that pops up from allrecipes, called “Party Punch V,” is the one for which I bought the ingredients when we were planning to celebrate Mom’s 90th birthday in 2011. It’s evidently a classic.
That’s a story that really didn’t go anywhere, I know. Life is like that sometimes. But when it came time to find a tune to pair with that meandering story, I got lucky pretty quickly. I found a track from the Temptations’ second album, The Temptations Sing Smokey, released in 1965. The album went to No. 35 on the Billboard 200 and to No. 1 on the magazine’s R&B album chart. It’s a song more often associated with Mary Wells, whose 1962 original went to No. 9 on the Billboard 100 and to No. 1 on the magazine’s R&B singles chart.
It may be more familiar coming from Wells, but it’s pretty damned good coming from the Temptations, and that’s why the Temps’ cover of “You Beat Me To The Punch” is today’s Saturday Single.